Our bodies matter
Even these broken bodies that fail, for those who are in Christ, bear the glory and presence of the risen Lord. For this reason, it matters what we do with our bodies. Those who represent Jesus as the signs of the presence of the kingdom of God through healing must know that not only do their bodies matter, but the bodies of all matter. And it matters how we treat them, if for no other reason than that it reflects our own understanding of the one true creator God revealed through Jesus Christ.
We strive to live “in the world, but not of the world.”
Those who labor in the healing arts face challenges that are, in many ways, not unlike the same challenges we all face as we strive to live “in the world, but not of the world.” These kinds of challenges, moral dilemmas, and ethical confrontations are common to all of us, but they are accentuated for those who work in the medical community. The incursions of government, the secularization of our world, and the processes and protocols habitually practiced in our society can become overwhelming.
Life asks hard questions.
We can’t escape life’s hardest questions. We find them where we least expect them. I found them once when, on a lark, I sat down to watch a Quentin Tarantino film with my college-age son. Even Kill Bill II deals with the most deeply seated experiences of humanity: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be married? To have children? What does it mean to be betrayed? What does it mean to have a sexual experience inside and outside of marriage?
Scripture addresses these questions.
Scripture addresses all of these questions. The theology of scripture is profoundly unified about the goodness of creation, the goodness of the human body, and God’s ultimate purposes in each. Just as those in the medical community face accentuated moral questions, they are also made uniquely aware of the goodness of the created order.
We need not question the fact of the fall to acknowledge that the world is good. Sin is not materiality; sin is rebellion against the God who made all good things. God’s plans for our redemption have everything to do with the long awaited Messiah who is God incarnate. The redemption of the body and of the fallen creation takes place in the fleshly body of Jesus.
Take a look at Romans 8:1-4:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
This outlook on the goodness of the creation is reinforced in every particular at specific points in scripture.
The body is for the Lord
Paul wrote a letter to a group of household churches in Corinth that were clearly influenced by Greek dualistic thinking. He reminded them of a cliché his opponents were using: “Food is for the stomach, the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” (1 Corinthians 6:13) He answered that cliché and told his readers, “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13)
A utilitarian view of the body
Paul wrote this passage to people who had a very utilitarian view of the body. The cliché, “Food’s for the stomach, the stomach’s for food, and God will do away with them both,” anticipated exactly the kind of utilitarian view of the body we find in our secularized world today. It is a view of life and of the world that has no true eschatology, no hope for the creation, much less the body.
The body, in that view, doesn’t matter because it is material. It needs to be done away with. What we do with it, therefore, is irrelevant. The men in Corinth had no problem calling themselves followers of Jesus Christ and yet still visiting the pagan temples and their prostitutes. They argued that because God would do away with our bodies, they could do whatever they wanted with them.
The goodness of creation and the coming resurrection
Paul countered this argument very clearly. “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord.” And then the remarkable statement: “The Lord is for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13) This is a dense and pregnant theological phrase that assumes the existence of the creator God, the goodness of the creation, the locale of the redemptive act of God in the redemptive death of Jesus, and the future resurrection of the dead.
“God not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through his power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14) That’s a statement about the inextricable link between the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all those who are in Christ in the future. In light of the coming resurrection, it matters what we do with our bodies. The body has fallen to the powers of sin, but it nonetheless remains God’s good creation which he will redeem.
We have deep traditions that are grounded in the reality of the creative act of the one true and living God who’s revealed himself through Jesus Christ. Our risen Lord has, in his death and resurrection, brought us into his train of redemptive power.
God bless those of you who labor in the field of medicine. It is not easy, but integrity, courage, core convictions, and the truth of God revealed through Jesus Christ will guide you.
I have a blog about how we at HBU teach and train future healthcare professionals. You can read it here, “Faith & College: Healing Professions.”
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from an address Dr. Sloan gave at Healthcare in a Secular Culture: The Conscience of Physicians and Nurses at risk, a bioethics conference hosted by Houston Baptist University on April 29, 2011. A video of his complete address may be viewed here, beginning at the 36 minute mark.